Creativity: Kind of Like a Scavenger Hunt

I am a morning person.

I wake up between 4am and 5am. I go downstairs, fix a cup of coffee (two tablespoons of Ovaltine, please) and start writing fiction. I’m usually fairly content if left to shape my own world out of words—but, these past few mornings, I have felt a bit uninspired.

The problem? I’ve been sitting alone with my own anxious thoughts for far too long. Worry drains creativity. Fortunately, I stumbled upon a solution Saturday night while watching the first few episodes of Season Two of “Anne with an ‘E’”.

If you haven’t heard of this series, I highly recommend it. “Anne with an ‘E’” is a heart-warming, Canadian television show currently on Netflix. It’s based on L.M. Montgomery’s novel, Anne of Green Gables. As a child, L.M. Montgomery was one of my favorite authors. Montgomery’s protagonist, Anne, is an orphan with a rich imagination. Anne finds stories in everything she looks at and wherever she goes.

Anne’s personality and incredible knack for discovering inspiration has prodded me to open my eyes a little wider. There is creativity out there. I just have to open my heart to it, and never stop asking questions.

For instance, I took this photo with my phone:

morning fog

What are we looking at here? In our everyday lives, it is just a sunrise in early July, around 5am. Fog is blanketing the field across the road. It crawls slowly toward our house. Is the fog hiding something? What causes such weather? Does fog symbolize anything? Creepy, right? Or, is it just fog?

This, I think, is how you spin a new short-story.

I’ve never really believed in personal writing muses. The closest I have ever gotten to one was with Wallace the Wonderful. He thoroughly enjoyed harassing me when I was typing. He liked chewing the corners of my research books and lying on my print-outs. He’s been gone since February, but I still miss him every day.

Wallace guarding weather witch

We have a gallery of sorts, hanging on the wall, across from the kitchen table (where I write). It consists of portraits of friends and family—and, of course, there’s a photograph of Wallace. It reminds me that he’s never too far away.

For now, Luna, our puppy, is too high-energy to be a writing companion (plus she’s too big now to curl up on my lap). She prefers activity, like learning how to swim:

luna swimming

Someday, when she’s older and calmer—maybe, then, she’ll doze off at my feet while I type out tales. I’ll be able to pet her copper-colored ears when I’m searching for a word. I’ll whisper the options to Luna and if I’m really lucky, she’ll snore when I say one of the words. You guessed it: I won’t use that word.

Snore translation: That word is too boring, Human Mommy. Find something better.

Although I am not quite awake when dusk falls, there are details about that particular time of day that sparks my creativity. I think I can see pieces of flash fiction when studying the solar, hanging mobile on our back porch. The stars and the angels move slowly, serenely, when stirred by the breeze; otherwise, they are still, soaking up the last of the sun’s rays.

solar mobile

It’s truly the little things—the minute details—that build a strong piece of writing and fuel a writer’s creativity. I have L.M. Montgomery and “Anne with an ‘E’” to thank for reminding me of that.

And, thank you, too, Dear Readers! Your prayers and words of encouragement give me the strength to persist, to heal, to pursue my dreams. Your love and light continue to nourish my soul. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love,

Laura

Advertisements

Words of Comfort, of Healing

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In response to my last blog post, someone I consider to be a dear friend kindly asked:

“…What is your favorite thing for people to say in support? Are there certain statements that help noticeably more than others? If all we have are words to help you I’d like to use the words that mean the most to you.”

I didn’t have an answer.

As a writer, I always have words—or, rather, the arrangement of words—on my mind. For instance, I spent a great deal of time trying to describe the color of the Sternbergia lutea flower for my novel-length manuscript, Greenwood. More recently, I’ve been searching for the right words to describe a fictional Norwegian Forest cat named, Birkir. He has an important role in my current writing project, Skraeling.

Despite this constant meditation on words and how best to use them in fiction, I have rarely thought about what words would be most comforting to me in uncertain or frightening situations. I couldn’t answer my friend’s question until this past Thursday morning.

Many of you may remember the notice I posted regarding the week of June 25th. Namely, I wrote that there wouldn’t be a new blog post that week due to having so many doctors’ appointments in Boston. Among those appointments was a surgical procedure—meant to diagnose the potential presence of a secondary cancer. I’ll spare you (and me) the details of “what it might have been” and “what they did to me”. Instead, I’ll just say that I received an email on Thursday morning announcing that the procedure results were in. The email also listed the results…and I couldn’t decipher them.

I did what anyone with a difficult medical history would do—I panicked. I cried. Yes, I have been a patient, in various capacities, since I was 23 years old. Although my sojourn through cancer and transplant-land has been long, it does not mean that I can speak the language of the medical field. Overwhelmed, I kept scrolling through the procedure results, desperately trying to translate them.

Finally, I worked up the nerve to call the doctor’s office.

No one picked up. I had to leave a message.

Surprisingly, while all of this was unfolding, something wonderful happened. I realized that I did have an answer to my friend’s question. As found in the New International Version of the Holy Bible: “For he will command his angels concerning you…” Psalm 91:11a.

Alderaan July 2018

I was spiraling in a panic attack, but I kept repeating the verse over and over again. Soon, there was nothing else in my mind. The Bible verse was in my blood, in my lungs. It was the ocher buoy keeping me afloat in a sea of anxiety.

When I finally received a call back from the doctor’s office, I was collected enough to hear the words, “very good results”.

And, then, I started crying again—big, grateful tears.

Fortunately, I don’t have a secondary cancer. I will have to be monitored for any changes, of course, but in this present moment, I have time to rest and heal. I also now have words to comfort me when old fears rise.

pink wildflowers

Please continue to send prayers, light and love, Dear Readers. They are both needed and very much appreciated. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

With Love,

Laura

 

A Study

First, Dear Readers, thank you for your prayers, love, and light while I was in Boston.

view of Fenway

The check-up portion of my visit went fairly well, although I did learn that I may have to remain immunosuppressed (without a functioning immune system) for longer than the average bone marrow transplant recipient. Why? I’ve had Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD) so many times that it might have to be considered a “chronic” disease instead of just an acute condition.

Currently, the GVHD that I have is managed with my anti-rejection drug, which essentially suppresses my immune system. I have also been on a steroid for a fair bit of time. Long-term steroid use, unfortunately, can lead to other health issues, such as bone density loss and for some individuals, muscle wasting. Due to these negative side-effects, in “chronic” cases of GVHD, the patient often participates in a clinical trial or study. I don’t know yet if I have “chronic” GVHD—but if I do, and if it is offered, I will consider participating in a study.

Studies can be frightening (no one wants to feel like a guinea pig in a science lab), but studies can also save lives—or, at the very least, improve the quality of life—mine and maybe someone else’s, too.

There was good news at this latest appointment, too! My liver enzymes were normal again! I also started my vaccinations. I know it sounds strange, but I was elated to finally receive my Tetanus shot. The timing was perfect; a day or two later, I sliced my thumb open on a can.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Secondly, I wanted to thank you for your patience while I was away from my blog. I realize that this post, too, is short. My legs (not exactly sure why) have been causing me a great deal of pain. I feel as though physical pain drains creativity.

Healing, as we all know, takes time.

Once again, Dear Readers, thank you for all of your kind support. Please continue to send prayers, love, and light. I need them. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love,

Laura

A Temporary Absence

rain on leaves

Dear Readers,

Please note that I will not be sharing a new blog post this coming week.

As some of you may already know, I will be in Boston for several appointments on Monday, June 25th—including a surgical procedure. If possible, please send light, love, and prayers my way. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

With Love,

Laura

Second Chances

I have noticed a trend in my movie and television-watching habits; I’ve been gravitating toward programs that focus on second chances.

Second chances to be an all-star athlete.

Second chances at love.

Second chances to simply be a decent human being.

If I were to analyze my current viewing preferences, I would self-diagnose myself as searching for hope. I would admit that my battery needs to be recharged. I need to be spoon-fed some good, old-fashioned positivity.

number_

So, Dear Readers, if you were in need of hope or inspiration, where would you look? Is there a movie or television show that you would watch? A book that you would read? A friend or family member that you would call? Would you travel somewhere? Is there a song that you would listen to over and over again?

Don’t be shy! I would sincerely appreciate suggestions!

Please continue to send light and love this way. It helps more than I could ever explain.

 

With Love,

Laura

Puppies and Patience

Luna has had her dinner and is now sleeping on the couch.

There are moments when she completely melts my heart—like chocolate chips in freshly baked cookies.

And, then, there are other times…that, let’s just say, she’s teaching me patience.

Even on the days when this copper-colored puppy tries to use me like a chew toy, I am grateful for her presence. She’s a tremendous amount of work, but don’t all good things require work?

nap

Unbeknownst to her (or maybe she can sense it), Luna has been saving me from anxious thoughts. I can’t ruminate on how painful this particular flare-up of Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD) has been, when there’s a little dog that needs to be taken outside.

With her running around my ankles, I don’t have the time to bemoan (or concentrate on) the fact that my recovery plan is now slightly behind schedule.

Besides, there have been some positive developments on the GVHD front! Although I cannot lift my arms straight up over my head, the inflammation in my shoulder joints is now under control. The swelling in my left arm has gone down and I am much more mobile. My liver enzymes, while still not quite within normal range, are almost there. I’ll finish this week on 30mg of Prednisone and decrease the following week to 20mg. At that time, I should be back (or as close as I can currently get) to my old self.

I have never been a patient person, but some things—like worrying—have to wait when there’s a puppy around. Our Luna is as bright as a little moon, and she is illuminating our lives in ways that I couldn’t have predicted. She is both a challenge and a blessing.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for the encouragement, the light and the love. Please continue to send good vibes this way. It’s appreciated.

 

With Love,

Laura

Unpredictable

We have a puppy!

luna

Our puppy, Luna, is currently snuggled up on her daddy. Daddy is clearly her favorite person. And, why not? Mama (me) is a bit stand-offish. No puppy kisses here. Mama is constantly washing her hands. Mama doesn’t—because she’s just not that mobile—get down on the floor to play. Mama often wears gloves. Mama wears a mask whenever we go somewhere as a family (i.e. the vet’s office).

luna and daddy

So, why even bother getting a dog with all of these restrictions?

First, my transplant team in Boston said that I could.

Second, a little companion to take care of, and love, is perhaps one of the best forms of medicine out there.

Third, life is too short to wait for a better/perfect time. I’ll be brutally honest with you: I don’t know how much time I will have on this Earth. Neither do you. If you stop and think about it, do you know when your last day will be? Or how old you will have grown? Make the most out of your time here. Do those things that restore you spirits and make you smile. Breathe.

My grandmother was buried last week.

A former co-worker passed away just a few days ago.

A mentor, whom I am truly grateful for, faded away this weekend like an evening star.

What can we do when presented with such loss?

We can hold on tightly to the pleasant memories and the sage advice. We can live. We can open our hearts to love. We can take chances and put up with the nuisance of washing our hands every half hour. I refuse to live my life in fear. I refuse to miss out on happiness.

I can’t live with my Alderaan right now; Luna can’t fill the hole that Wallace left behind. Despite all of that, we can be a little family. We can learn from each other, we can laugh, we can howl when Daddy leaves for work (which is a habit I probably shouldn’t be encouraging). Sometimes, though, it’s one-hundred percent necessary to throw your head back and howl at the moon.

Please, Dear Readers, continue to send light and love. I am still coping with the symptoms of Graft vs. Host Disease. On a more positive note, my MRI’s from last week showed improvement. We’re back in Boston this week (to monitor the Graft vs. Host Disease). Hopefully, we can gain control of the GVHD soon.

Thank you, as always, for all of your kindness and encouragement.

 

With Love,

Laura

Counting Blessings

Well, Dear Readers, as you know, I have Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD) again. I still do not have full control of my arms, but the swelling in my left arm has gone down a bit.

The new medication regimen promises to be (slowly) successful.

With steroid use, though, you must be mindful of how you’re behaving. As some of you may have experienced in your own lives, steroids can alter mood. While I don’t usually “rage” on these medications, I have caught myself getting angry. Thinking mean thoughts. Becoming jealous.

These are all things that I do not want to be.

When I relapsed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (A.L.L) in February of 2017, I was determined to weather cancer treatment with grace and gratitude. I’m still not sure if I accomplished this…but it’s a life-goal goal I continue to work toward.

It’s hard to resist a chemical mood swing, but I am learning that being mindful of my temperament and of my surroundings helps. I can find comfort in the little blessings that have been coming my way—and reset my mood.

Blessing #1: This little guy or gal:

robin

She or he lands on the windowsill, every morning, and watches us (or the television). S/he tapped on the glass until I got up off of the couch and took a picture of him/her. It made me feel like some sort of fairy tale princess instead of the Hulk.

Blessing #2: The shrubbery growing along the house:

I have no idea what these plants are, but the new growth makes me hopeful for the future.

This coming week brings an MRI appointment. My neuro-oncologist just wants another peek at my brain. It’s precautionary. Still, good thoughts would be appreciated! Please continue to send light and love. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love,

Laura

Graft vs. Host Disease

First, Dear Readers, I apologize for the tardiness of this post. I spent Monday at a follow-up appointment with my bone marrow transplant team in Boston.

As some of you already know, I’ve been experiencing shoulder and arm pain. I had originally thought that the pain was the result of relying on my arms to pull myself up the stairs in the new house (my legs are a bit wobbly still).

The source of the pain, however, is not as simple as overuse or a strained muscle.

I have graft vs. host disease (GVHD) again.

 

Just a little vocabulary review:

Graft – harvested and transplanted bone marrow from a donor

Host – me, my body.

 

Some of you may remember from an earlier post in 2018, that I’ve already experienced GVHD as an irritating skin rash. This time, GVHD is causing inflammation in my shoulder joints. Lab results also show elevated liver functions. So, yeah, it’s most likely in there, too.

The truth is, 70-75% of bone marrow transplant recipients experience GVHD on some level. Thankfully, it’s not all gloom and doom. GVHD means that my donor’s graft is capable of recognizing foreign substances. Right now, I—my organs, my joints—they’re foreign to her. She’s kicking my butt, too, which means if Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia ever decides to pay me another unwanted visit, the graft will know exactly what to do with/to it.

Due to the fact that so many bone marrow transplant recipients develop GVHD, my doctors know precisely what to do to clear me of it. I will be taking a higher dose my anti-rejection medicine and adding a steroid to my daily regimen. Together, these two steps should tame the GVHD enough for me to gradually become comfortable again.

Please continue to send light and love, Dear Readers. I need them. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

With Love,

Laura

 

A New Home

We closed on our house!

It doesn’t quite feel like home yet, but, given some time, it will. We will fill these rooms with laughter and happy memories. We’ll add new colors. We’ll play music and celebrate the holidays with family and friends.

Owning a home, for me, is so much more than signing a stack of papers. It’s more than a financial commitment spanning a handful of decades. I realized, while watching the wild bunny in our backyard, that buying a house is an immense leap toward rebuilding my life.

backyard bunny 3.0
(Sorry that the quality of this picture isn’t better.)

Buying a home is another step toward recovery.

It’s an act of hope—hope that I will not relapse again, that the bone marrow transplant will be 100% successful, and, ultimately, hope that I will live long enough to leave my mark on this house.

I know. It sounds a bit pessimistic, but this is how you think after surviving cancer. You are constantly looking over your shoulder to see if the disease is following you. Amidst this worry, you learn how to breathe again. You learn how to live. Or, at least, you try to.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for all of your support and encouragement. Please continue to send light and love. Alderaan is back at the vet’s office. Poor little guy had a urinary tract blockage. We’re hoping that he’ll be discharged today.

 

With Love,

Laura